December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story

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Produced on behalf of the U.S. government, December 7th is just as slick and professional as any of director John Ford's "civilian" films. With the not inconsiderable contribution of cinematographer Gregg Toland, Ford literally recreates the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and even manages to build up suspense by filming several scenes of the unsuspecting military personnel at work, play, and worship. So convincing were many of the attack scenes that they have since been excerpted in several documentaries, leading the more impressionable viewers to ponder why the film's cameramen were foresighted enough to have set up their equipment at the precise moment of the bombing! As originally intended, the film, narrated by Walter Huston, was a stern criticism of America's lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor (the entire fleet were lined up like sitting ducks). The government didn't like this aspect of December 7th and ordered it removed; still, the remaining 34-minute docudrama (pared down from feature length) ended up winning an Academy Award

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